We always look for lessons in the teams that win. We're not real sure how to build a World Series team, so we look to the teams that get there.
So here are the lessons we've learned in 2010:
You build a World Series team with a solid core of position players, developed over time. You boldly trade away some of the most talented players you have. You emphasize defense and athleticism, and when you think you're just about ready to win, you make a huge midseason trade for a true No. 1 starter.
Or you don't.
No, you build a World Series team by developing a pitching staff better than anyone else's, by drafting pitchers even when you desperately need hitters, by stubbornly resisting calls -- even from within your own organization -- to ever trade away any of that great pitching for a real hitter. Then, when you're ready to win, you throw together a lineup from baseball's scrap bin. You don't worry too much about defense, because it takes every hitter you have just to score a few runs.
The Rangers and Giants got to the World Series the same way, in that each had to oust a defending champion with a sense of entitlement.
The Rangers and Giants got to the World Series in very different ways, in the way they play and the way they were built.
Giants baseball, in the words of broadcaster Duane Kuiper, is torture. In the 16-year history of baseball's three-tiered playoff system, the Giants are the first team to emerge from the first two rounds by scoring only 30 runs.
The Rangers scored 59.
Of the seven postseason wins that got the Giants to this point, six were by one run. The Rangers win by so much that they have only one postseason save -- and that came in a game they won 10-3. Their last one-run win was in September.
But it's more than just the scores.
The Giants drafted and developed their great pitching staff. They used first-round draft choices on Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, and drafted Jonathan Sanchez and closer Brian Wilson in lower rounds.
They threw together a lineup with whatever they could find, with Pat Burrell (released and sitting home in Arizona) and Cody Ross (acquired on waivers because the Marlins weren't interested in keeping him).
The Rangers got their rotation out of the draft, but only if you count that they got Cliff Lee because they once had drafted a first baseman named Justin Smoak (the key piece in the Lee trade with the Mariners), or if you count Colby Lewis, a one-time Rangers top draft pick who they were smart enough to hand a two-year contract when he wanted to come back from Japan.
Or maybe you want to count closer Neftali Feliz, because the Rangers got him in a trade for one-time first-round pick Mark Teixeira.
The Rangers aren't in the World Series without that July 2007 Teixeira trade, which also netted them shortstop/leadoff hitter Elvis Andrus.
The Giants aren't in the World Series if they had listened to all those who wanted them to trade pitching for hitting.
Or maybe they are.
We'll never know what would have happened if general manager Brian Sabean had made any of the big deals he could have made, had he only been willing to surrender Cain, Bumgarner or Sanchez (no way he was trading Lincecum).
We just know that they got there now because of Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Wilson and even Sanchez.
The Rangers decided a few years back that what they were trying to do wasn't working. They decided they needed a big change, that they wanted to become more athletic.
They hired Ron Washington to manage their team starting in 2007, and in the job interview, general manager Jon Daniels asked Washington what type of team he wanted.
"I'll work with whatever players I have," Washington said, as Daniels remembered it last week. "But I like to play an upbeat, aggressive game."
When Washington arrived in Texas, the first thing he did was change the mindset. First he emphasized that defense is important. This past spring, he pushed just as hard on baserunning.
The Rangers go from first to third regularly. In Game 5 against Tampa Bay, they scored from second base twice on infield outs, and once on a stolen base-plus-error. If a pitch bounces, they always look to advance.
"If you don't pick it up cleanly, you're going to be throwing to a base," Washington said.
The Giants are not, by any means, a speed team. They tied for last in the majors in steals during the regular season, and they have only three steals in 10 postseason games.
The Rangers have 15.
The Rangers built their lineup with Michael Young and Ian Kinsler, both longtime Rangers (although Young was originally acquired from Toronto for Esteban Loaiza). They built it with Andrus, acquired in the Teixeira trade.
And, of course, they built it with AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton. Hamilton, of course, was acquired in a bold trade with the Reds, in exchange for Edinson Volquez -- a pitcher.
Yes, they traded a big pitcher for a big hitter.
That's how you get to the World Series.
Or, in the case of the Giants, it isn't at all how you get there.